The first item that morning was about the sudden and unexpected death of the previous newsreader the night before, but no one really believed it. They believed that she was dead but they did not believe it had happened the way they said. And then it cut back to the studio and we saw the replacement newsreader, who was almost an exact replica, only slightly prettier. And it felt like there should be somewhere for everyone to go so that they could talk to each other and say that they had noticed this thing, to feel better about it and maybe even do something. Maybe get together and complain to the television station, or round up a protest in the name of the old newsreader and some kind of truth, ask some questions of the authorities. But it felt like it was a time in which protesting wouldn’t do any good – it had begun to feel like a time in which everyone was too busy making their own noise to listen to anyone else. So we got on with eating breakfast. The new newsreader was wrapping up the programme now, moving her slightly-superior lips as she formed words, coaxing us all forward into a never-ending time of escalating expectations, futureproof progress and unquestionable perfection.
And they agree to go out for dinner together. Neither of them have interesting jobs so they do not talk about that. All he will say about work is: “I was too hot all day because I had to wear a jumper to cover up the fact that my shirt was really, really creased.” She laughs as though he has actually told a funny joke and he just looks confused and uncomfortable. Neither of them are hungry so they share a sandwich and then go for a walk in the city. They find a bench in the park and they sit together with their eyes closed, and tell each other fake truths – long and detailed secrets which they describe in such earnest tones that it doesn’t matter whether they are being dishonest with one another or not. She tells him about the time that: “My parents left the country, abandoning me in the care of some mutually disliked neighbours, and it was only ten years later during a walk home from work – I had just walked past the house that sells the eggs in a little stall at the end of the drive, and the house next door which had the dogs, whose garden I always looked in to see what was happening because first there were no dogs, then there were dogs, and then shortly after there was a small fence because the dogs were getting out of control and had to be kept in, and then soon after that the fence was taller, and then even taller, and then one day the fence had come down and there was no sign of the dogs and just some children standing on the roof of the kennel, whooping and hollering and carrying on like the whole world was going to the dogs, so I was interested to see what would happen next – and anyway, I was just walking along on my way home from work when my parents drove past and it turned out they’d been living in the next village along for the last ten years.” Their accounts are not as dry and humourless as their lives – they make bleak jokes and hollow puns to illustrate their tales, though these are not the important parts. The stories wind deep into the night and the city changes around them, growing darker and deeper and more real and.
Toast-flavoured soup, served with toast. Toast with toast-flavoured butter, or toast-flavoured butter spread on bread to create a toast illusion, eating it from a slice-shaped china plate. The toaster carefully calibrated to brown within a millisecond of your exact taste, kitchen walls painted to match. Locked away for days concocting toast-flavoured tea and a toast-based breakfast cereal, staying up all night with crumbs accumulating around your eyes, getting under your fingernails, toast smoke in your skin until it comes out in your sweat, you fill the tumble dryer with toast to infuse your washed clothes as they dry. The family intervene and give you an injection to try and get you to stop but you counteract with a prepared potion that is pure liquid toast. And then you’re away, overdosing on toast, sinking into an endless golden retreat where you lie for days on a bed of freshly-buttered toast, you eat toast, dream toast, breathe toast-scented air into your toast-shaped lungs.
Ain’t No Email Postmen (A Blog About Envelopes)
Item #1 – A Short, Fictitious History Of The Envelope By Way Of Introduction: Since well before the sixth century, the circulation of human correspondence in folded paper constructs known as envelopes has contributed to the continuing orbit of the planet Earth around the sun – indeed, before the industrial revolution and the introduction of steam-based technology, we were almost entirely reliant on postal movements to get us around the sun on a yearly basis. Now, thanks to numerous other worldly developments, envelope-passing is no longer needed for this purpose, though it does continue. In some places it has become an artistic form with a number of new ideas being applied to the design and decoration of the humble envelope. And, as always, change continues to happen – scientists predict that in the future it will be possible for humans to send post to each other without use of physical envelopes by using computers instead, and mind-to-mind mail transfers cannot be far away either. But whatever happens you can be sure that a glimpse of an envelope will remain a sight to quicken the human pulse, and that the internationally-recognisable symbol for an envelope – whether used in conjunction to physical or non-physical post – will serve as a symbol of the visceral thrill of post, and a reminder of our humble beginnings.
Item #2 – Envelopes, A Puzzling Journey Through The Royal Mail by Harriet Russell (Book Review): There are not, that I know of, a whole lot of books about envelopes. Therefore, I am going to go ahead and arbitrarily proclaim Harriet Russell’s ‘Envelopes’ as the best (um, that I know about, and have read). It is a thrilling stormer of a biography, charting each and every fold in the production of an envelope, every lick and stick of it’s envelopey life and a thrilling hare-brained tumble through every step of the postal service and then the recycling process. Not really! Ha, um, yes. No. It’s better (even) than that. Harriet Russel is an artist who seems to be incapable of addressing an envelope in a straightforward manner and this beautifully put together book collects some of the examples of her work as she set about her project to stretch the boundaries of what will find its way through the postal system, and testing the wits and inadvertently enriching the lives of some of their employees on the way. She delights in taking something straightforward and functional and turning it into something interesting – her post may have taken longer to sort but each envelope is a miniature work of art itself. Some examples include an envelope in which the address is hidden in crossword clues which needed to be solved before it can be delivered and one which features just the postcode and a drawing of the house to which it is supposed to be delivered. One of my favourites is an envelope sent from New York to London, covered in a comic strip in which the sender tries to persuade a NY taxi driver to drive to London to deliver the post.
Item #3 – Grow Your Own: Unlike Ms Russell, I wasn’t clever enough to think of more mischievous ways to address post (though I did do a few experiments, posting chocolate bars with addresses written on the front and letters with limerick-style instructions for the postman) but a few years ago I received a homemade envelope from a friend and decided to pick it apart and learn how to make them myself. I built a template out of a cereal box and got obsessed with making my own envelopes (see illustration). Ok, it doesn’t sound like the most interesting hobby and it’s difficult to rationalise it and explain why I enjoy it so much – it’s repetitive and as such takes minimal brainpower, and at the end of it you have some interesting envelopes. I now have far more envelopes than I could ever need to use, they just pile up everywhere and I have to make things like this just to stop it getting ridiculous. All you need is some tools (scissors, pencil, bonefolder (and once you start folding things with a bonefolder you won’t want to go back to folding things without)) and some ingredients (slimline double-sided tape, paper (the more interesting the better, usually pictures which are at least A4 in size – full page illustrations in magazines are good (food magazines always make for tasty envelopes, though paper from newspaper magazines can be a bit too flimsy), old calendars are good (big pictures and sturdy material)) and you are away (I could try and explain exactly how to make them, put it would probably come out confusingly, and anyway it’s more fun to try and work it out yourself). Hours of very quietly exhilerating fun await.
… although the author later claimed that he was unaware of its existence at the time of his writing. What we do know is that he was aware of similar products, writing to a friend some time earlier: “We had one once but then it broke. All kinds of strange things happened during its last days, it acted very oddly, impulsively. And we could tell it was falling apart but we did nothing to fix it – it somehow made us act strangely too, and we watched its demise with a perverse kind of inactive fascination.” Executors later found post-it notes in his desk which appeared to be designs for a new version, which is consistent with various scholars’ theories that the idea had taken over – annexed was the word used in one journal – his imagination at that point. It is unclear whether he was re-designing it for use in some future work of fiction, or whether he had given up on writing and was hoping to actually manufacture the item. In a broadsheet interview six months after his funeral, the author’s widow noted that, “he was not a practical man, but he did seem fascinated by the idea of producing something with his hands and I think that were it not for his… if it were not for that, then perhaps he would have got around to trying to make it. But then he was always coming up with ideas and getting halfway through, you never knew.” Some scholars have, on studying his drawings, seen the design as a metaphor for the novel, referencing the complex internal workings in opposition to the blankly anonymous exterior of the machine. This has been extrapolated further and suggested that it was also designed to reflect his own nature – noting that there was, of course, a short period of time preceding his death in which the author himself seemed to have been inverted, the evidence for this being reports of his behaviour at a number of public events where, to paraphrase the author, he, ‘acted very oddly, impulsively.’ The newspaper reports of these appearances make for interesting reading, startlingly cold accounts of the man’s apparent descent into madness which do not seem to show any kind of…
The woman stands on the doorstep,
all early-Spring studied indifference
she holds her dog under its belly
casually, The weather is fine and
the dog hangs in undignified pose
but masks its embarassment with
a learnt look of studied insouciance,
relaxed like the ladder leaning
and making a strict angle against
the house, The weather is fine and
the workman is going up the ladder
rung-by-rung, concentrating to make
it look like he is hardly thinking,
hardly looking as he springs
upwards as the woman watches him
get to the roof where he is closer
to the early-Spring sky, The weather is
fine and everyone is keen on the
novelty of it all, of being able to
stand outside without a coat on